January 27, 2022 - 4 min read
January 27, 2022
2 Comments

The Last Feed

I’ll never forget this day.

Happy and sad.

Relieved and dreaded.

It’s time, no it’s not.

The internal monologue I’d have with myself, justifying my decision to end  breastfeeding my first born — “I got him this far.” 

“We made it 9 months!” “He keeps biting me.” “He has 6 teeth.” “He’s ready. I’m ready. We’re both ready.” 

Why was I explaining myself and to who?! Why did I feel so much guilt? No matter how much I knew in my gut and in my heart that it was time, there was something so terribly sad about it.

My breastfeeding journey didn’t start off easy.

I remember a blur of sleepless nights followed by foggy days, bleeding nipples, the shields, the pumps, the pain, the multiple lactation consultant appointments within the first few days and weeks postpartum, begging my neighbor to come over to help me figure out what I was doing wrong. Was it the way I was holding him? Was something wrong with my body? Was it my supply? Why couldn’t I keep up with his needs? Did I miss an opportunity in the hospital right when he was born to do something that would have prevented this struggle?

The confusion on my husband’s face when I was distraught made things worse – it wasn’t the admiration I hoped for, it was confusion. I was fighting so hard, but from his perspective, the solution was very simple. We give the baby food and that’s it – it didn’t matter if it was formula or breastmilk. A well fed baby is all that matters and while yes, he is indeed correct and most often my North Star, especially during times of strife, he failed to see the disappointment, frustration and pain boiling inside of me.

“Why are you torturing yourself?” he’d ask.

All I wanted to hear was,“How can I help?” and “You’re doing great!”, but the truth is, I wasn’t doing great, so that likely wasn’t what I needed to hear. And my husband did ask, numerous times, “How can I help?” but I couldn’t hear him. I was lost in my own personal battle. It was like I was underwater. I could see him offering his hand to help, but I couldn’t understand him and he couldn’t understand me. I was lost. I didn’t have an answer and I didn’t know how to make it better – I just knew that I wanted to. Tears would well up in my eyes but I was too tired to actually let them fall down my face. It felt like I was failing.

Someone else looking in would think the solution was the same as my husband’s, “just stop”, “there are other options”. I just did not want that. I didn’t want to give up and I believed that if I could figure it out, that it would be best for me and my son.

I don’t know how to put into words what it personally meant to me to nurse my child, but all I can tell you is that it mattered deeply.

There was something so beautiful about it – at least in my mind. I envisioned it to be this female superpower – the ability to nourish my child and give them exactly what they needed at any given moment, no matter where we were or what supplies we had on us. There is something so organic and beautiful about it all.

But it was not natural for me. It didn’t start out that way. It was hard – really, really hard. I remember the day after giving birth, they had a tube taped to my skin pulling milk from a formula bottle, weaved through a nipple shield, all while trying to get my son to latch, pumping my other breast at the same time. He was screaming. My heart was pounding. I was losing any confidence I possibly had going into unknown territory. It was the furthest thing from my vision of natural.

I was determined to push through.

As purely as luck would have it (along with loads of proactive efforts), around the 6 week postpartum mark, something clicked and it worked, it all started to work. Our little guy was a big eater from day 1. We combo fed him from the beginning, breastfeeding when I could and supplementing with formula and pumped milk.

So as I sit here and reflect on this time, this very special time – the badge of honor I’m proud to wear – I’m a little sad to say goodbye to this chapter that my son and I have had. This time I worked so hard to have that I will never get back, yet will cherish forever. The closeness, the bonding, the love, the need – there are most certainly new things to look forward to with my growing boy, but never again this.

From one of my all time favorite children’s books by Charlie Mackesy – “look how far we’ve come.”

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Image of Gabrielle Iorio Sylk

Gabrielle Iorio Sylk

@gabriellesylk

Gabrielle Iorio Sylk is the founder of Bumpdate. She is a mother, wife, and caring friend. Gabrielle uses her tech background and innovative skills to foster Bumpdate’s growth and bring people together during the most beautiful and challenging times in their lives. She lives on a farm in New Jersey with her husband, son, daughter, dog and the many woodland creatures who live in their backyard.

Comments

2 Comments

  1. Barbara Sylk

    Thank you for sharing this heartfelt struggle, and journey. I am sure it will inspire other firs time mothers to follow their hearts and instincts also when making these choices. Sometime just pushing through is what someone needs to do. Sometimes not. Only they know. But now they know that others, too, have struggled by you sharing your story so honestly and lovingly.

  2. Barbara Sylk

    An honest and beautiful story. Full of love.

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